Hadiatou Diallo, who received both WFP school meals and take-home rations during her education, was one of the top performing girls in the primary school leaving exam in the Sahel Region of Burkina Faso.
YAKOUTA – Hadiatou proudly rolls out her bicycle into the courtyard of her home. Family and village members gather around as her younger cousin pumps the back tire.
“I worked hard, that’s why I received the bicycle,” said Hadiatou, who received it --- the day before at a ceremony for the top-performing students and teachers in the Sahel Region.
Hadiatou was one of nine girls to receive a bicycle from WFP. All of these nine girls received school meals throughout their primary school education and in the last two years of school, take-home rations of 10 kilograms of maize or sorghum each month.
Hadiatou comes from Yakouta, a village about 12 kilometres from Dori, where her father herds cows, goats and sheep.
“When I am older, I would like to be a nurse, so I can take care of people,” said Hadiatou. When asked what she likes to do for fun, she said, “Go to school.”
Hadiatou has two older sisters, both of whom arre already married with children. Hadiatou gave another reason why she wanted to stay in school: “If I stay in school, then I can stay unmarried and not get pregnant.”
Hadiatou is shy, giving short answers when asked questions and speaking softly. But she comes to life when she goes through her school notebooks. She explains a map of Burkina Faso, the maps, rivers and towns and names the different parts of the digestive system. “I wake up to study before school starts,” she said.
Hadiatou started going to school when she was six thanks to a woman called Aissatou Issa. Aissatou is a mere educatrice, a village volunteer, grouped by the local authorities, who encourage families to enroll their girls in school and then encourage the girls to stay in school. She sits on a mat, holding Hadiatou’s hand.
“It’s even more important that girls stay in school than boys because girls are the future of our villages, the boys leave!” she said, adding that at Hadiatou’s age, she was already married.
Next year, Hadiatou will start secondary school, which is in the town of Dori. She will sleep and study in Dori, sharing a room with other girls from smaller villages. She will use her bicycle to return home to visit her family on the weekends.